Walking to prevent suicide
“It is solved by walking.” So an ancient saying tells us.
We cannot solve everything by walking, but sometimes we can make progress in responding to life’s challenges by walking. This year, along with thousands of other people affected by suicide loss, I will be walking to raise funds to combat what has become a national epidemic.
Cleveland's Out of the Darkness Walk takes place on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Wade Oval in University Circle.
For our Heights family, it was the death of our son and brother, Josh, that changed our lives and brought us face to face with the catastrophe of suicide. One day, he was a funny, engaging, and creative 24-year-old college graduate working in Chicago, full of ideas and plans for the future—and the next day, he was gone.
As the years passed, I learned that there were indeed signs that Josh was in trouble, if only someone had known how to read them. I also learned that while research into suicide and its prevention is in its infancy, there are ways of addressing and treating the underlying causes of the mental illnesses that all too often can have deadly consequences.
The turning point for me came when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I quickly realized that the stigma attached to suicide and suicide prevention is where breast cancer was a generation ago: in the closet. Progress has been made in addressing breast cancer because activists stepped forward and raised money and awareness for research, treatment and prevention of the disease. The same steps are required to address the devastation of suicide.
In early 2012, as I was recovering from my cancer treatment, I contacted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and volunteered to become a field advocate. Last fall, I went to Columbus to testify on behalf of the Jason Flatt Act, which now requires suicide prevention education for all Ohio school teachers, administrators and staff. In June, I spent three days in Washington, D.C., learning about federal mental health legislation. With 400 other volunteers and staffers, we met with senators and representatives to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
When suicide takes a life, survivors typically feel a sense of hopelessness in the face of the shattering grief and unanswerable questions that follow. I believe suicide prevention work is a way to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves. Walk with me on Oct. 19. To learn more about Out of the Darkness, go to www.afsp.org and click on the link at the top of the page, or visit www.facebook.com/AfspOutOfTheDarknessCommunityWalkCleveland.
Rev. Robin Craig, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and pastor in the Presbyterian Church, is a board member of the Northern Ohio Chapter-in-Formation of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.